An Honest Review of the Network Marketing/Multilevel Marketing (MLM) Business

Network marketing honest review

Should you join that network marketing company your friend is telling you about? Will you earn the money they promise you? Do you feel it’s too good to be true? And why isn’t everyone doing it, if there is so much money to be made?

This review tells you what your friend doesn’t want to tell you upfront. By the time you finish reading, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what exactly you are getting yourself into.

This post is also for those who have been in the business for less than a year.

I’m going to share with you what I learned in the 3 years I spent doing this business full-time. I’ll tell you why most people don’t succeed in it, and then outline tips you can use to build a successful business.

You probably have been invited for a job interview, and when you turn up, you get confused. Instead of a proper office, it’s a hall full of people facing a whiteboard. There’s a guy in a suit at the front making a presentation. And these people are clapping… a lot. 

They promise you’ll earn lots of cash if only you can “bring your friends” to the business. The friends will bring other friends who will also bring their friends and voila! You’ll be earning more than 100k per month. Weird, right? 


Welcome to network marketing.

What is network marketing and how does it work?

Also called Multi-Level Marketing (MLM), or direct selling, network marketing is a marketing strategy that involves people marketing a company’s products by word of mouth.

It starts with a person first buying and using a company’s products, then as a happy user, recommending the products to their close friends and family who also buy and recommend them to their friends. The chain goes on and on, creating a network of people buying and using the products.

The key here is that products are moving from the company warehouse. It saves the company huge amounts of money they would otherwise have used to market the products on print media, television, or social media. One word: Brilliant!

When you join you are known as a distributor. Those who join under you are called downline distributors. The one who introduced you is called an upline.

Illustrated, it looks like this:

Network marketing tree

To get a clearer picture of where you stand, we’ll expand the network, and here’s how it now looks.

Network marketing illustrated in a simple way

How you earn

You earn in two ways. One, as a registered member, you get a discount on every product you purchase. When you sell at the selling price, you earn a profit.

Two, you are paid a bonus depending on the number of products that you, together with the people under your network, sell within a month.

Is network marketing a legitimate business?

Yes, it is a legitimate business. That it is not a popular strategy for marketing products (compared to the conventional way of advertising via TV, radio, or newspaper) does not make it illegitimate. 

It’s people who join expecting to become instant millionaires (or who have been led to believe so) that give it a bad name. 


The biggest misconception

Probably the biggest misconception about network marketing is that most people assume it is a job. That you’ll get paid at the end of the month for just showing up.

That’s not how it works. 

Network marketing is a business. There is no guaranteed paycheck. You earn what you’ve worked for. 

Newcomers will earn the first month (mostly from buying the first consignment of products), then they get shocked when they don’t receive a cent the following month.

Network marketing is just like setting up a kiosk in your neighborhood. If you sell nothing, you earn nothing.

Another thing worth mentioning is some believe that this is a business of “just bringing people.”

Of course, adding people to your network is important, but they have to buy products. Otherwise, a thousand people in your network who don’t buy any company product will earn you zero.

Top network marketing companies in Kenya

          ▪Aim Global

          ▪Neo Life

          ▪BF Suma

          ▪Forever Living



          ▪Crowd 1

          ▪Opulence Global

          ▪Six Sigma Trade

          ▪World Ventures



Why do some members post photoshopped pictures?

You must have seen those awkward, obviously photoshopped photos of a guy leaning on a Mercedes Benz or a Jeep with the caption “I’ll show you how to earn 30k every week. Ask me how.”

“Ha ha!” you wonder, “even a baby can see this is photoshopped!”

I’ll be honest: These guys are totally innocent. Allow me to explain.

It’s a way of conditioning your brain by visualizing what you want to achieve.

When you do this with any object you desire and place the image where you’ll see it every day, your mind is going to work towards actualizing it. And you’re likely to end up acquiring that thing. It’s proven to work.

If you are new to the business, a better way is to request your upline for a photo beside their car, if they own one. It’s more believable and will psyche you up authentically.

Now for the challenges.

Challenges you are likely to face

▪Lack of money to sign up or buy the first consignment of products.

▪Discouragement from family and friends. 

▪Finding people to buy your products.

▪Finding people to join your network.

▪No-shows (The people you invite for a presentation fail to show up)

▪Earning little money (or none!) in the first months, yet you have bills to pay.

While we are at challenges, I remember one time I was delivering company products to a client in downtown Nairobi. It was in the evening and darkness was already setting in. The client had parked close to a wall of a building. He had opened the front door of the car, which blocked the path that pedestrians were using. I was standing outside the car, leaning forward toward him.

Suddenly, two men in heavy jackets approached. I closed the door to create space for them to pass.

Ah, piteni. Njia ni kubwa.” (Ah, you can pass. This space is big enough.)

Kijana ni nini hizi umeshika?” (Young man, what are you holding?)

This could be a potential client, I thought. But hang on a minute- the accent! That’s when it hit me. These were no ordinary citizens. These were the police — plainclothes police.

Before I could answer, one of them grabbed the bottle of a fish oil supplement from my hand and blatantly busted out: “Nyinyi ndio mnauzia watu Viagra huku downtown? (You are the people selling Viagra in downtown Nairobi?)

Hapana afande.” I tried to explain. “Hizi ni food supplements. Ni za kampuni inaitwa…” (No, sir. These are food supplements. They are from a company called…)

Wega hii gijana pingu.” (Arrest this guy.)

Ah! My heart sank. I tried to show them the receipt from the warehouse, but he slapped it away.

“Toa hizi tagataga hapa!” (Get this trash out of here!)

Good Lord! Cops in Kenya are special, no doubt.

It was the first time in my life to be handcuffed. I was scared stiff. The thought of spending the night in a cell at the nearby Kamukunji police station scared the crap out of me. I was confused and didn’t know who to call to get me out of this mess. All the while, I could hear the little clicking sound as the officer tightened the handcuffs on me.

A few steps later, they arrested another guy. His crime? Idling. They handcuffed us together. Never in my life had I thought I’d ever find myself in such a scenario. I mean, these were scenes I usually saw on the telly; scenes of hardcore criminals bundled together.

And I don’t know where the police picked this habit of handcuffing you, then making rounds with you around town while arresting more people. Lakini raundi nazo tulipiga. Nkt. (We made a lot of rounds around town.)

Why most people fail in this business

Almost 90% of people who join network marketing quit along the way.

That said, you also won’t succeed if:

1. You think you are working for your upline

No, you are not working for your upline. Any networking company worth its salt has its compensation plan carefully crafted to ensure no one works for the other. 

Sure, your upline will earn some bonus off your business, but the business is structured in a way that if they don’t work, they won’t get paid — it doesn’t matter the level they are at. That top leader you see could take home zero in bonuses if they laze around. Unbelievable, but true.

So you’ve added 3 people to your team and you think you’ve done your upline the biggest favor? Nope. You are doing yourself a favor, not the upline.

2. You are not using the company products

When you try to sell a product you’ve never used, you’ll lack confidence when explaining the benefits to a buyer. And yes, they’ll notice it, and they won’t buy from you. Nobody wants to buy a product from someone who is not even sure it’ll work.

3. You lack prospecting tactics

Every company conducts regular (and free) training for new distributors. This is where you’ll learn how to prospect, approach people, sell to them, and much more. It will take a while to learn the ropes, but if you skip this training, you are well on your way to failure.

4. You take rejection personally

Maybe you’ve reached out to your friends and family and they’ve refused to join your business. It hits hard, as they are people you always count on to support your ideas.

Here is what Mark and Rene Reid Yarnell say in their masterclass book Your First Year In Network Marketing:

In our industry, a decline to participate in the opportunity most often means “the timing isn’t right for me now.” Occasionally it means “I don’t like direct selling.” But it never means “I don’t like you.” Like a waitress walking around with a coffeepot, we are merely searching for those who would like to have what we have to offer. 

5. You try to pursue those who left

Eventually, some of your distributors will leave — for whichever reason. They’ll stop picking up your calls, and when they do, they’ll give you wild excuses why they are missing in action.

Most of the time, they’ve already decided that they won’t come back. Don’t waste your time pursuing them. Instead, go out and recruit new people.

6. You don’t talk to enough people

Maybe no one has told you this, so I’m going to do it here. Network marketing is a numbers game.

For example, if you want to sign 10 people into your business, you’ll have to talk to and invite 100 (sometimes even more) people to your presentation. Crazy ratios, right? Yeah, I know. And sometimes, you’ll sign up less than 10 from the 100.

7. You suffer the shiny object syndrome

So there’s a new network marketing company in town, and everyone seems to rush there. You want to follow suit, figuring out that maybe it’ll be easier to make money in that other company. 

You’re wrong. 

The industry is the same; the bottom line of any MLM company is the same — recruit many people who recruit others while you all sell the company products. If you didn’t make it in company A, you almost certainly will not make it in company B.

8. You don’t lead by example

The funny thing about this business is that it’s majorly a monkey see, monkey do business. If you stop recruiting new people or selling products, your downline distributors stop too.

9. You don’t manage your time well

Eventually, you’ve joined a business where nobody is bossing you around. Nobody’s dictating the time to wake up, reach the training place, or leave for home. You get to do what you want when you want.

Careful though, this is a business that requires your commitment and discipline more than anything else. Or you will end up making no progress.

So push yourself. Set targets. Set deadlines.

Now that we’ve seen what doesn’t work, let’s now focus on what actually works.

How you can succeed in network marketing

Really listen to your upline

They’ve been there, done that.

The first cause of failure occurs when new network marketers listen to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. The second failure results from their NOT listening to those of us who know what we’re talking about.      

 -Mark & Rene Reid Yarnell

Read books

Recommended reads

Robert Kiyosaki’s

    ▪Rich Dad Poor Dad

    ▪Cashflow Quadrant

    ▪The Business of the 21st Century

Your First Year in Network Marketing 

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Ask your upline for more recommendations. 

Use the company’s products

You will have more convincing power when selling products if you’ve actually used the products.

Ask for referrals

Your guest may choose not to join your business even after a thorough presentation. It’s totally fine. Tell them to refer to you people in their phonebook whom they think would be interested in the business. Get a list of at least 50 people from them. Contact those people and invite them to a presentation.

Be enthusiastic

Enthusiasm is contagious. Smile, be excited. Nobody wants to join a sulky business. And I bet you’ve heard that people buy you first before they buy the product. 

Groom yourself well. It’s not uncommon to see the people you invite for a presentation give you the once-over look from shoes to hair and wonder, “Does he/she look the money they are talking about?”

But be warned: Don’t lie to people about how much you earn or how much they expect to earn. If they join under a fallacy and later come to know the truth, they’ll quit. 

Oh, and one more thing, worth a repeat: There is no guaranteed paycheck. You’ve earned this month, well and good. If you don’t work next month, you’ll earn nothing. This is a business, not a job.

Don’t join this business if…

You want quick results, but you’re not ready to put in the work.

You get discouraged easily

You are not ready to be taught by your upline.

You think you can remote-control your business (Sending your guests to your upline for presentation all while you chill at the house watching Netflix). Nah, it’s not gonna work. Get this: network marketing won’t work unless you do.

“Or telling people that all they’ve got to do is sign up, give you a list of potential distributors, and then you’ll do the rest. It doesn’t work.” -Mark Yarnell

Bonus tip: Don’t quit your job and join this business full-time unless you have some other steady stream of income. Instead, work it out part-time, then you can slowly transition to full-time.

Parting shot

Ultimately, network marketing won’t work for everyone. It’s a business that will test your limits in every way humanly possible. But if you work it out long enough, and in the right way, you could end up becoming wealthier beyond your wildest imagination.

About the author

Lenny Kamwara Pic

Lenny is a content producer based in Nairobi, Kenya. A TV Production graduate from the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, KIMC.